Ranges suppliers see shift in chefs' preferences

When it comes to the development of commercial cooking ranges, the value of the equipment is really in the eye of the beholder.

For most chefs, all that matters is the unit’s cooking performance and therefore the priority for the majority of brands has been to focus on the design and production of technology to deliver this.

But there are other criteria, too. Ease of cleaning and servicing are important, while factors such as international compliance, energy efficiency and environmental and sustainability needs are also playing their part in the choices that buyers make.

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Big changes are certainly taking place at the factory end of the market, with numerous brands reinvigorating their offering over the past 12 months. Take Charvet, for instance. Following the launch of its Pro700 series last year, it has developed a new four zone plancha, which is now an option on its 800, 900 series and bespoke suites.

“Unlike conventional planchas, this unit achieves a huge 450°C and can therefore be used in the morning to boil pans or for mise en place,” explains UK managing director, Wayne Cuomo. “For service, it can be used to cook on directly; each of the four zones has separate zones, making it ideal for teppanyaki style cooking.”

The induction movement also continues to strengthen. A marked increase in the popularity of the method is leading companies such as Exclusive Ranges to make sure their offering in this area is on the money.

“We have spent the last year developing both the Menu System products and how we build them into ranges to meet the specific requirement in the UK,” confirms managing director Trevor Burke.

Rosinox and Mareno have been doing something similar. Both brands are managed in the UK by Dawson and it claims to be one of the few suppliers in the market that can supply induction cooking on an oven base.

“We have seen the specification of this increase dramatically and it seems to be the way forward for lots of kitchens,” says marketing manager Glen Crossland. “We have recently secured a national account with ‘Induct Flam’ from Rosinox, an induction alternative for open gas burners. This technology has been available for a few years but customers understand the products more and the real benefits they bring.”

Few have been as busy as the Middleby Group when it comes to breathing new life into its portfolio. It recently launched a collection of no fewer than 20 oven ranges and hob tops as part of its 70-piece modular Q90 family. The new lines are available with either a gas or electric 2/1GN oven, drop-down doors and a wide choice of hob tops and burner specifications.

At Electrolux, arguably the biggest new product development has been the introduction of Thermaline, a premium range of bespoke cooking suites, modular cooking solutions and braising pans. Hot products category manager, Simon Lilley, says the range combines a range of made-to-measure solutions that can form an island suite or wall suite.

“With three different depths of modular equipment that can fulfil almost limitless demands of size, layout and functionality, Thermaline’s ProThermetic range also boasts a set of boiling and braising pans that can be installed and suited with any of the modular lines,” he reveals.

Falcon, one of the most established suppliers of oven ranges in the UK, has launched two new key lines over the past year: the Dominator Plus G3151 Fusion range, featuring a powerful wok burner and five standard burners; and the Dominator Plus E3101 6 hotplate, available with a general purpose or fan-assisted oven.

Steve Stenhouse, marketing communications manager at Falcon, admits the emphasis is currently on functionality and size, and offering customers sufficient choice to source the range most suitable for their requirements. “With kitchen space often at a premium, providing equipment that is available in different sizes, as well as offering additional flexibility, such as the Fusion range, is very important,” he remarks. “Energy efficiency is obviously important these days, with induction ranges becoming ever more popular.”

The market for oven ranges remains extremely competitive, with product evolution generally driven by improvements in build quality and the emergence of new technology.

However, Lincat’s Nick McDonald argues that some manufacturers have responded to the crowded landscape they face by re-engineering to take cost out. “We have done the opposite,” he insists. “In other words, where we have seen an opportunity to improve performance and thereby add value, we have taken it. Both energy savings and flexibility are increasing in importance and demands will be made on manufacturers to offer these options, so it is a combination of being both design and functionality led.”

McDonald highlights Lincat’s recent work to increase the burner power of its Silverlink 600 gas oven ranges as an example of this. “The result is that our Silverlink 600 gas oven ranges and boiling tops now provide even better performance from the same, compact 600mm deep footprint, with no increase in list price,” he comments.

Ali Group brand Baron has completely upgraded all the ranges in its catalogue over the last 36 months and continues to focus on introducing the latest designs and technologies to its product portfolio from year to year.

The main thrust for it this year has been the launch of the new ‘Royal’ line of heavy duty equipment, which is shortly set to be followed by an accompanying range.

“We will soon include a matching gas range to complement the latest development Molybdenum top for cooking with either pans or directly on the surface,” reveals Roger Flanagan, managing director of Baron importer Universal Foodservice Equipment.

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Grande Cuisine, the supplier of Athanor and Capic equipment, is mindful of the need to operate with a focus on constant product evolution.

“We base it on feedback from chefs and users, and we are often in dialogue with partners and interested parties about new product possibilities to ensure we’re up to date with the needs of the industry,” explains managing director Steve Hobbs.

The fruits of this are evident in the projects it is involved in, he says. “We recently delivered a unique installation to Roka in Charlotte Street, London. It is a range from our modular Capic line, all situated beneath a solid one-piece top. It’s the first site in the UK to feature such a specification.”

Hobart Cooking Solutions is finding that businesses are now considering the total cost of ownership, that is, the purchase price plus the regular operational costs including service and maintenance, rather than just looking at the purchase price in isolation as was often the case in the past.

Product manager, Paul Godfrey, says: “Our new Wolf range, for example, has proved particularly popular with hotel operators who tend to choose the 900 series. Equipment is suited and we find this is the preferred choice because it helps operators in terms of ease of cleaning and is also a more compact solution in kitchens where space is often at a premium.”

For high-productivity kitchens such as schools and hospitals, meanwhile, the ability to create a variety of different dishes on a large scale takes precedence, as does the economy at which this can be achieved.

With this in mind, it is no surprise that Electrolux’s Lilley reports pleasing sales of its ProThermetic braising pan range. “These ranges have proved hugely popular, such is their ability to deliver up to 90% in energy savings and a choice of product typology — tilting or stationary braising pans, pressure pans and boiling pans,” he says.

Efficiency remains hugely important, with ranges featuring induction or fan assisted ovens currying favour due to the savings they offer in energy and time. The allure for smaller ranges that take up less footprint in the kitchen but still contain the same firepower is also impossible to ignore at the moment.

“We have seen and will continue to see a reduction in the overall footprint of cooking islands,” agrees Exclusive Ranges’ Trevor Burke, also noting the rising popularity of more efficient, multifunctional appliances such as multi cookers, which can operate as pasta cookers, veg blanches and water baths. “We have been able to reduce, in particular, the width of the cooking islands by the use of induction equipment and install them on both a horizontal and vertical plane.”

Charvet sees its Pro700 series having a tremendous role to play in the market as operators seek more compact sizing to fit smaller kitchen spaces.

“The Pro700 series signals the future,” insists Wayne Cuomo. “It still uses a chassis for strength, durability and ease of access for servicing, but thanks to improved CAD design and production techniques, especially more precise engineering, we are able to improve the build quality using the minimum of resources.”

It’s not all about being compact, though, as Universal’s Roger Flanagan testifies: “Customers seem to be veering away from the old fashioned small ‘six burner range’ and coming to larger pan support sections so that the large pans used in operations don’t overlap and make some burners redundant.”

The ranges market is as old as the professional catering industry itself, but it certainly can’t be accused of failing to move with the times.

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Why cooking ranges remain in vogue

The oven range market is still very traditional and despite the economic downturn the sector has held up well. British manufacturer Lincat claims that it is still selling many more traditional cooking ranges than it did a decade ago, while the proportion of ranges sold, relative to other items of equipment, has grown, too. Here, managing director Nick McDonald, gives some thoughts as to why that might be the case:

Tradition: Generations of chefs have learned — and continue to be taught — to cook using traditional ranges.

Flexibility: A range allows you to roast, bake, boil, poach and pan fry, all at the same time.

Cost-effectiveness: The market for six burners is both competitive and price sensitive. This means that you can often find an exceptionally good deal. Some manufacturers price their six burners lower than their four burner models!

Proximity: The close proximity of the oven to the hob is very useful, for example when sautéing a dish and then finishing it in the oven. There’s no need to carry the pan across the kitchen to a separate combi or convection oven.

Temperature: Many traditional chefs have learned to use the variation in temperature in different parts of a traditional gas range’s oven for a variety of uses at the same time, such as holding dishes in the cooler lower section while continuing to roast in the hotter top part. Try doing that in a combi!

Modularity: Oven ranges tend to be part of modular equipment ranges, which allow individual items to be changed when menu demands change. While the six burner is likely to remain required, a customer may want to change, say, a griddle for a pasta boiler.

Regulation: Electric models have become much more popular in recent years, probably due to the cost savings available by not needing to install interlocked extraction systems.

Gratte Brothers fits suite to power top hotel kitchen

The reliability and performance of a new Wolf cooking range fitted by Gratte Brothers Catering Equipment has earned praise from the head chef at a top London hotel.

The Wolf 700 modular range is now the heartbeat of the London Marriott Hotel Park Lane’s redesigned kitchen, which runs 24 hours a day throughout the year.

Anshu Anghotra, head chef at the five-star hotel, who designed the new-look kitchen, chose Wolf after a recommendation from Charlie Parker, senior contracts manager at Gratte Brothers Catering Equipment.

He required a robust commercial range as the kitchen runs a 365-day-a-year operation. As well as catering for the 130-cover restaurant it provides room service for the hotel’s 157 rooms and any event catering that is going on.

Prior to settling on the range Anghotra got to see the equipment in action for himself at a nearby restaurant, where he spoke to the chefs who had been using it. “They gave me their good word and that’s really what sealed the deal,” he explained.

Gratte Brothers’ Parker says the Wolf cooking range is engineered to operate for long hours under demanding hotel conditions.

“When you’re dealing with a client like Marriott, it’s very important that you put in equipment which is very reliable. The chefs in the group talk to one another so the type and style of equipment that goes in has to stand up to the job and offer a good after-sales service.

“There has been a gap in the market for reliable, durable equipment of this sort which is able to cater for around-the-clock use. As a distributor it is obviously in our best interests to put in equipment which doesn’t breakdown.”

Parker insists there are very few pieces of equipment which are able to keep up with the pace of being turned on at 5am and then off at 1am.

“We normally get a string of calls very early on when ranges like this are installed and I have to say the reason we’re specifying Wolf so much is because we’re simply not being put into that situation, which is what we like.”

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